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The Gossiping Gourmet: Sundried Tomato hitting all the high notes

April 20, 2011|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Sundried Tomato in Laguna Beach.
Sundried Tomato in Laguna Beach. (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

In our dining experience, Sundried Tomato has had some ups and downs over the years, but now it's definitely riding on a high. We hadn't eaten there in several years but were delighted with our recent visit. Well prepared food by chef Moises Villalva, excellent service and a convivial atmosphere made for one of our better meals of late. The menu is fairly standard California-fusion cuisine but the preparation is superior.

On a warm evening in the middle of the week, the cozy patio and the attractive dining room were full. We had made a reservation. The hostess who seated us also took our order promptly as she noticed that the waitress was extremely busy. High marks go to management for this kind of customer care. Our waitress, who arrived soon after, was charming and helpful.

A basket of hot crusty rolls quickly appeared along with their signature sun-dried tomato butter. We really appreciate when restaurants serve their bread hot and crusty, because so few restaurants bother to anymore. The olive bread was particularly nice paired with the butter.

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Terry had been yearning for some good tortilla soup, and it turned out to be their Tuesday special. It was a particularly excellent rendition, lush with corn and tomato flavors while not being too rich. The tortilla-thickened broth had a creamy, smooth texture punctuated with chunks of freshly cooked chicken and thin tortilla strips for a bit of crunch. The flavors linger pleasantly on the tongue with just a touch of heat.

One of their signature dishes that has been on the menu since they opened is the crispy blackened chicken egg rolls. The stuffing was mostly chicken with mixed greens for color. Although we didn't taste anything blackened, there was plenty of flavor from the honey cilantro dipping sauce. It starts out sweet and slightly spicy and finishes with a fresh burst of cilantro. It would probably make cardboard taste good.

New to us is the blueberry Asiago salad. Tart/sweet blueberries dot the greens while savory shaved Asiago add salty earthiness. Arugula provided a bit of pepperiness, pine nuts add sweetness and crunch, and Bermuda onions a touch of sharpness. The mélange was tossed in just the right amount of a nicely balanced garlic lemon vinaigrette. We particularly enjoyed the nutty Asiago, which you don't often see sliced on a salad.

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